~To Kill You With a Kiss~
Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who has been reading this story, and especially to those who have offered constructive criticism, feedback and encouragement. This is the longest story I've ever written - thank you for your wonderful support along the way!
Somewhere, at the very edge of the world, lies a small island that has no name. It is little more than a weathered rock in the blue-grey waters; a wanderer could walk easily from one side of the island to the other in a quarter of an hour. The winds are always blowing in from the ocean: a sweet southern wind on warmer days, and a bitter north wind in the winter. There is only one hidden corner of the island where the wild winds can't reach, a calm bay nestled under the steep rocks on the western edge. A solitary white house, surrounded by a garden, overlooks the windless waters of the bay.
Two men live there, sheltered from the wind. Those who have seen them speak of their beauty; one of them has eyes the color of emeralds, and the other's eyes are silver. But emerald and silver mean little to the fisherfolk who travel here, and soon their stories change: One man has eyes the color of the distant southern seas, and the other's eyes resemble northern waters in winter.
Their house is old and creaky and filled with books which they read during the winter nights. But in the summer, the two friends sit in their garden and look out over the sea. The few fishermen who ever cross the sea here whisper among themselves that the garden must be enchanted, for the soil is usually salty and barren by the sea. But in this garden, wild red apples, plump golden cherries and wine-dark currants grow in profusion, and there are roses and lavender and fragrant herbs. Two evergreen trees grow by the front door, their branches curiously intertwined: A bright green holly tree and a darker yew. The fishermen wonder at those strange trees, for no other evergreens have ever grown in this bracken soil.
The inhabitants of the house have a small boat, but they seldom have need to leave their island. A few minutes of lazy fishing from the rocks will bring in silvery mounds of cod and coalfish and mackerel; the two friends seem to need nothing else.
But every so often in the summer, when the breeze blows warm from the south and the waters are calm, friends from far away come and visit them and stay for a few days on their island in the sea. How the visitors get there, no one knows. No boats or ships are ever seen, but suddenly, the garden is filled with people laughing and talking. In the long daylight hours, the visitors swim in the bay and roam across the rocky cliffs. At nightfall, they gather around a bonfire by the water's edge and roast fish on makeshift wooden spits and tell each other strange and wonderful stories of other times and places. There are tales of magic and love, of darkness and light, and of curious twists of time and fate. One of the guests is a dark-haired boy with south-sea eyes, so similar to one of the two men who live there that the fishermen whisper among themselves that they might be long-lost twins. The visiting boy and his parents and his young brother speak softly of little things, of a small house in a distant village, of friends who linger with them on Sunday afternoons, and of a wondrous school far away. The two men who live on the island listen in breathless silence, as if these vignettes of ordinary days are the most marvelous tales of them all. A red-haired family with many children talks of a quiet boy from nowhere who fell in love with their daughter and whisked her away to a distant land, while a grey-eyed man with long dark curls speaks of evil rising in the north, and of courage and resistance.
They all sit around the fire and laugh and share stories until the sky grows dark over the silver-black water and the children slowly fall asleep in the grass. But when the fire burns low towards morning and all their other friends drift off to sleep, the dark-haired boy who has come to visit rests his head in the lap of the man with long black curls, and they speak in a whisper of a dear friend, a mysterious dark-clad traveler who weaves in and out of their lives. And the two men who live on the island smile and whisper that they know him too.
But when the long summers are over and the winds blow icily from the north, the two men go into their little house and lose themselves in each other's company until next spring. They read strange old books and speak of curious things and look out over the ever-changing sea.
But sometimes, even in the bitter cold of winter, when the wild winds sigh across the waters, a third figure can be seen against the lamp-lit windows of the little house. Who this mysterious visitor is and where he comes from, no one knows. He seems to come with the storm and leave when the waters are calm. Some whisper that he is a ghost or a spirit of some sort, for he is only glimpsed when the ocean is too wild for travel. Others say that he is nothing but a dream.